Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Monday decided to quit the conglomerate, without divulging his future course of action. “I have decided to distance myself from the Hurriyat given the current situation”, and ailing Mr. Geelani said in a voice note. He said all the constituents of his faction of the Hurriyat had been informed, in a detailed letter, about the decision. Under house arrest since 2013 in his Srinagar residence, Mr. Geelani, who is 90, was earlier associated with the Jamaat-e-Islami but left it to float his own political organization, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat. He also split from the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq faction of the Hurriyat over the approaches adopted to resolve the Kashmir problem. Mr. Geelani is known for his hard-line ideology and advocated accession of J&K with Pakistan. He, however, did not clarify if he has resigned from the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat or not. In the past two years, the health of Mr. Geelani has deteriorated significantly, a family member said. “No one outside the family is allowed to see him for many years now,” he added. His resignation assumes significance in the wake of the Centre’s decision to revoke J&K’s special status on August 5 last year. Sources said his resignation is due to the internal feud within the Hurriyat leadership, which faced a massive clampdown in the run-up to abrogation of J&K’s special status. He had opposed the move and asked the Centre to work on a political resolution through dialogue with the Hurriyat and Pakistan.

In an audio message, Geelani made the announcement of his resignation. The 90-year-old has been under house arrest since last August. He also said that he won’t be answerable about the future conduct of members of the Hurriyat Conference. “Till my last breath. I will be against the policies of the Centre”, Geelani wrote on his detailed letter. The leader said that the activities of Hurriyat Conference members currently in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) were being investigated by the amalgam for various allegations. Geelani also said that he was not happy with other members not raising their voice against the decisions of Centre, which are being implemented in Kashmir Valley, including abrogation of Article 370. “The activities of these representatives were limited now to seeking access to assemblies and ministries for joining the government there (PoK). Some members were expelled while others started holding their own meetings. These activities were endorsed by the constituents by holding a meeting here to endorse their decisions,” Geelani said in his letter. Geelani said he was forced by the constituent parties in 2003 to take over the charge of the Hurriyat Conference and later, made lifetime chairman. “The lack of discipline and other shortcomings were ignored and you did not allow a robust accountability system to be established over the years but today, you have crossed all limits and indulged in rebellion against the leadership”, he said. The Hurriyat Conference, an alliance of 26 political, social and religious organizations was formed in 1993, as a united political platform of the separatist parties in Kashmir. Geelani, who has been the face of separatist politics in Kashmir since the 1990s, was a lifelong chairman of the Hurriyat and had led several separatist movements in the valley.

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Formation and the role of Hurriyat :

All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), or Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, in an alliance of 26 political, social and religious organizations formed on 9th March 1993, as a united political front to raise the cause of Kashmiri separatism in the Kashmir Conflict. Mehmood Ahmed Saghar was the first convener of the APHC-PAK chapter when the alliance was established in 1993. The alliance has historically been viewed positively by Pakistan as it contests the claim of the Indian government over the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is its chairman and in 2009 Mehmood Ahmed Saghar was unanimously elected as convener of APHC in Pakistan, and Ghulam Muhammad Safi was elected as its convener in Pakistan in January 2010. According to the Hurriyat Conference, Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory and India’s control of it is not justified. It supports the Pakistani claim that Kashmir is the “unfinished agenda of the partition” and needs to be solved “as per the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.” The APHC perceives itself to be the sole representative of the Kashmiri people. The organization’s primary role has been to project a real image of counter- insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and to mobilize public opinion Indian security forces. For instance, the Haigam firing incident of 16th February 2001, was an assault on a peaceful gathering whereas, but later claimed in news reports and official clarifications, the army contingent fired upon the mob only when they were blocked and prevented from moving.

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Impact on J&K’s politics after Geelani’s resignation :

Kashmiri Separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani’s resignation has stoked a debate in the valley about its possible implications on the politics of region and, specifically, on the separatist movement. Since August 5, 2019, when article 370 and 35-A were nullified and Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union Territories- J&K and Ladakh- the Hurriyat Conference and other separatist groups had disappeared from the scene as large number of their members had been arrested or detained while others preferred to remain silent. Even after the lockdown in the Valley began to ease, the separatist groups for a long time refrained from issuing statements also. Now Geelani’s resignation has brought back discourse to separatists again. Many argue Geelani, who is 90-year-old and ailing, wants to be remembered as a Kashmiri leader and not as a separatist leader. A mainstream politician who remained in jail after Article 370 was removed, says that by resigning from the Hurriyat Conference and levelling allegations of embezzlement against his own colleagues, Geelani has “carpet bombed” then and thus isolated himself as the one who has not “compromised” on anything over the years. This way, he argues, Geelani, at the end of his life, has foreclosed any option of compromise or dialogue and literally passed the baton to youth and asked them to stand for “whatever ideology he stood for over the years”. He argues an era of intermediaries has gone with this resignation and Geelani, through his resignation, would want to inspire youth for his “uncompromising ideology”. As Geelani’s resignation has led to feverish social media commentary on the issue, people argue that the Hurriyat Conference and separatist couldn’t do anything after August 5, 2019 and now Geelani, by his resignation, is trying to “absolve himself.” In all this, separatists are back in the political discourse in the valley.

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